Suddenly losing a loved one is a traumatizing experience, especially if you believe that their death was caused by another person’s negligence or wrongful act. Deciding whether to file a wrongful death lawsuit during this overwhelming time can be difficult. The law is complex, and it can be confusing to know how successful your claim will be and if it is even possible for you to file. An experienced Sugar Land attorney can evaluate your case and help you decide on the best route forward. Read below for more information on wrongful death lawsuits in Texas.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of personal injury lawsuit that allows certain individuals to sue for damages when a loved one dies from another person’s “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” This means that you can file a wrongful death lawsuit if your loved one died because of another’s negligence or wrongful act. It serves the purpose of holding wrongdoers responsible and giving loved ones the compensation that they deserve.
Some of the most common situations giving rise to wrongful death lawsuits in Texas include motor vehicle accidents (including drunk driving), medical malpractice, defective products, and workplace accidents. An individual can file a wrongful death lawsuit regardless of whether criminal charges are filed against the defendant.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
When deciding whether to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you need to be aware that only certain people can file these claims. The following individuals can file wrongful death lawsuits in Texas.
- Surviving spouses;
- Children (adult or minor); and
- Parents of the decedent.
Any of the above relatives can file the suit alone, or they can file together as a group. Notably, siblings, grandparents, and unmarried partners cannot file wrongful death lawsuits in Texas.
If the surviving spouse, children, or parents do not file a lawsuit within three months of the death, the executor or personal representative of the decedent’s estate may do so. However, their claim will be stopped if all surviving beneficiaries object.
When Should You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
Texas also has a time limit, called the statute of limitations, that restricts when a person can file a wrongful death lawsuit. One of the first steps when deciding whether to file a claim is making sure that it falls within the statute of limitations. In general, you must file your wrongful death claim within two years from the date of the death.
There are limited exceptions to the two-year rule, including:
- The individual bringing the suit is a minor child;
- The negligence of the defendants was not known during the two-year period;
- A mental or physical impairment of the plaintiff prevented filing during the two-year period; and
Although filing a lawsuit will likely not be your first thought after your loved one’s death, you should not wait long to reach out to an attorney. If you do not file your case in time, the court will immediately dismiss the lawsuit, and you will not be able to recover any damages.
What Damages are Available?
Damages in wrongful death cases are meant to compensate the surviving family members and the deceased’s estate for losses stemming from the death. Before deciding whether to file a suit, it is crucial to understand what compensation is available.
There are three primary types of damages that you can recover in wrongful death cases in Texas:
- Damages that the deceased was owed due to the wrongful death, including medical expenses, pain and suffering for the deceased, lost wages, and funeral and burial expenses.
- Damages that the survivors incurred because of the wrongful death, including lost earning capacity, lost support and care, mental and emotional pain and suffering, loss of comfort and companionship, and lost inheritance.
- Exemplary (punitive) damages that are used to punish and make an example of the defendant. Exemplary damages are only available when the death was caused by a willful act or omission or was the result of gross negligence.
The compensation that the court grants will be divided among the surviving family members according to the injuries they each suffered as a result of their loved one’s death.
Your Sugar Land Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have questions about wrongful death lawsuits, you should reach out to a qualified Sugar Land criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Adam Capetillo is a Fort Bend County native who will evaluate your case and provide the best possible representation. Call Capetillo Law Firm today for a free consultation.